Ramblings

A life in books…

We all have those books that create lasting impressions. Whether they inspired a love of a particular author or genre, or simply came at an important time in your life, there will always be some tomes that hold a special place in your heart. I thought I would list some of mine:

Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Caroll
Plot: Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world filled with fascinating creatures.
Why it’s important to me: The first ‘big girl’ book I read when I was 7. At school you were allowed to read certain books when you reached a certain reading level and this was the first book I read when I reached the top reading level, I just remember being fully immersed in this foreign magical world.

A Candle in the Dark – Adele Geras
The plot: Two Jewish children are sent to the England by their parents to escape Nazi Germany and they wonder if they will ever see their parents again.
Why it’s important to me: One of the first fiction books I read about WWII at a young age and it really helped me understand just how terrible things were for Jewish people during the Nazi regime. I read this when I was about 8 or 9 years old and just remember feeling so scared for the children in the book.

Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling
Plot (fairly obvious): On his 11th birthday Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard and starts a life filled with adventure after he is enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Why it’s important to me: No list is complete for any twenty-something book lover without the Harry Potter Series. People who didn’t read the books can easily dismiss it as hype, but like all Harry Potter lovers know, J.K. Rowling didn’t just create some fun adventure stories, but lessons in how important love is and creating a wonderful, rich world which, on each re-read, feels a little bit like home.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
Plot: When the Orient Express gets stuck in a snowdrift and a passenger with a shady past is discovered murdered in his cabin, Poirot must discover which of his fellow travellers is responsible.
Why it’s important to me: My first Agatha Christie which spawned a life-long love of Poirot and his little grey cells. Easily one of my favourite (if not my favourite) authors, I have read every one of Christie’s books and I will always remember my first foray into her work.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Plot: A lawyer attempts to ensure his black client has a fair trial during the racial tensions of 1930s USA as seen through the eyes of his daughter.
Why it’s important to me: One of the first books to inspire strong emotions in me. I found myself feeling so frustrated and angry at the injustice faced by the black community in the book.

Private Peaceful – Michael Morpurgo
Plot: Two brothers fall in love with the same girl whilst also facing the horrors of the trenches during World War I.
Why it’s important to me: I read this book in one day whilst sitting on a beach in Spain. Having recently completed a school project on ‘Shot at Dawn’, it was the perfect accompaniment to highlight the hardships and injustice that these young men faced and the ‘crimes’ they were wrongly executed for, and I felt ashamed at how much of this part of history and the treatment of these men is brushed under the carpet.

Malvolio’s Revenge – Sophie Masson
Plot: A troupe of English actors travel around rural Louisiana performing a sequel to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. When they meet the beautiful and mysterious heiress of Illyria, their lives become intertwined with the magic and mystery of 1900s New Orleans. 
Why it’s important to me:
I received a proof copy of this book from my cousin after she found it discarded in the bookshop she worked in, and it quickly became one of my favourite books. I have yet to find someone else who has read it, but I cannot help but recommend this charming and sometimes spooky tale which blends Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with a bright and colourful New Orleans; it inspired a life-long ambition to travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Plot: In 1950s Barcelona young Daniel picks up a copy of The Shadow of the Wind after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The dark past of the book’s author and a mysterious figure burning copies of his books begins to affect Daniel’s own life.
Why it’s important to me: This was the first book I read of Zafon’s and I fell completely in love with his knack for storytelling. The mystical setting of Barcelona’s streets and the love of literature expressed in the book, quickly made this one of my favourite reads. It was a huge factor behind my decision to live and study in Barcelona, and the sequels continue to be just as captivating and magical. I also continue to be thoroughly impressed with Lucia Graves’ translations of his work which read just like original texts.

The Return – Victoria Hislop
Plot: On a visit to Spain, a young British woman discovers the story of an Andalucian family torn apart by the Spanish Civil War.
Why it’s important to me: I was always ashamed that I learned so little about the Spanish Civil War during my history education. I understand that growing up in the UK, most of our history lessons are focused on the British involvement in the World Wars, nevertheless, I always felt lacking in knowledge of my father’s country’s history. At Sixth Form and university I studied the war, but I have to say that The Return perfectly captures the way in which families were completely torn apart by the horrific conflict. I cried many times reading this book and I challenge anyone not to feel incredibly moved by the Ramirez family’s plight which was all too real for so many families and communities at the time.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Plot: Set in London in 2540 AD, reproduction is now carried out by artificial means and citizens are placed into predetermined classes. Advanced technology and entertainment feature heavily in people’s lives, however Bernard Marx feels like something isn’t quite right and his travels to the preserved ‘savage’ existence of the ancient world opens his eyes (it’s pretty hard to condense the plot into a couple of lines!)
Why it’s important to me: I love both A Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four, but as I see our growing reliance on technology and social media and need to seek validation through these means, I can’t help but feel that perhaps Huxley’s bleak view of the future is closer to reality. His ideas that that the way to control the masses isn’t through censorship and oppression, but via never-ending streams of information and propaganda aimed at confusing and overwhelming us, delivered by those material items we value most, seems all too familiar.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss
Plot: A poem on what awaits you when you embark on adulthood.
Why it’s important to me: I think everyone should read this book on becoming an adult. Whether it’s when graduating university or leaving school to start work, this poem perfectly sums up what to expect in life; the highs, the lows and the loneliness, and the consequences of your decisions.

I am disappointed by how many of these deal with depressing or difficult subjects, but I feel often these themes tend to leave deeper impressions.

Which books have greatly affected you?

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2018 – A proper go at it

Each year I make a list of attainable resolutions.

Waste less (money, food, materials), drink more water, read more, walk more, don’t eat out at work, text people back promptly…

I generally keep to these and manage to improve my habits year after year. However, I also set myself unrealistic goals like ‘write a book’ or ‘travel the world’ or ‘go to the gym’ . In order to help me achieve (some) of these goals over a longer time frame, I want to focus on learning and writing more in 2018. Aside from a few translations and the online articles and content I produce for work, I am still finding myself woefully lacking in time for writing, so it’s time I made a conscious effort to improve this and set aside some precious hours. Hopefully – and I have said this many (many) times in many diaries, journals, and blog entries -I will dedicate more time to posting on this blog. We’ll see.

I am also going to sign up for more free (and perhaps some paid) talks around London. I have lived in the city for 4.5 years and have definitely not taken enough advantage of all of the exhibitions, seminars and talks available to me, so here’s to learning more in 2018.

Reading goals:

  • Read more Russian authors.
  • Read more diversely (this was genuinely attempted last year and I ended up thoroughly enjoying Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Murakami’s Norwegian Wood)
  • Read more non-fiction

To read or reread this year (as usual, trying to clear my bookshelf/jenga pile of books):

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (a book club pick)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • El Laberinto de los Espíritus by Carloz Ruiz Zafón
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar ben Jelloun
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Read in 2017 (as of 29/01/2018):

  • Kill the Next One by Federico Axat
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher
  • The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
  • Burnt Shadows – Kamila Shamsie
Ramblings

Getting back into it….again

Yet again I find myself realising how much I suck at keeping any form of record or journal, which frustrates me as I find it a great way to focus and to express myself outside of work.

My pile of books to read has grown ever higher and so I aim to read at least 50 books by October  – hopefully this blog will keep me on track and ready to read.

I fully expect there to be a couple of re-reads (always the best way to get out of a slump) although I will really be focusing on new books and want to aim to get some new releases in there too.

Completed in 2017 :

  • Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (2017 UK release)
  • Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read of one of my favourite books of all time)
  • The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read)
  • The Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read)
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Sad Cypress – Agatha Christie
  • The Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie
  • The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon -David Grann
  • Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie (re-read)
  • Third Girl – Agatha Christie
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray  – Oscar Wilde
  • Autumn  – Ali Smith
  • Nomad  – James Swallow (audiobook)
  • Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  • Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
  • The Athenian Murders – Jose Carlos Somoza
  • Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  • Nutshell – Ian McEwan
  • The Club Dumas – Arturo Perez – Reverte
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
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Inspiration from my bookshelf

pile books

I suck at keeping diaries.

It’s true! Again and again, all of the diaries, journals, and even previous blogs I’ve tried to keep over the years have all been abandoned, replaced with hobbies, studies, work, or just given up on due to a simple lack of inspiration

So what’s new?  
A: The need for some creativity in my life.

Since graduating last June I have been working as a freelance translator, and constantly translating, editing, and proof-reading the words of others has made me realise how much I miss expressing myself and using my own thoughts and feelings to produce my own original material. Sure, in translation I get to exercise my writing skills. I get to play with words and phrasing, exploring ways to make target texts as idiomatic as possible, and in this I get to play with different styles, journalistic when translating news articles, informative when detailing product descriptions, persuasive when working on non-profit pieces, but they are not my own creations. I never truly think of them as my work. So now I’ve started this blog as a way to produce my own material and write about what care about.

Why High Piled Books?

Aside from it being a reference to my second favourite Keats poem (my favourite being ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ for any Keats enthusiasts out there), it literally refers to this huge pile of books I have to get through (see above).

LOVE books. This love was the driving force behind my decision to study  languages, and the reason I hope to pursue a career in publishing in the future.

I read all the time and always have a book close at hand, I once even had one tucked in my bag in a night club (it is way less pathetic than it sounds when given the context of the situation), but unfortunately, with work and other things occupying my time, I haven’t been able to read as often as I’d like to recently, yet have continued to buy more, and more, and more books, resulting in this endless tower I now have to find a way to get through. It’s a mixture of books I thought looked interesting on the shelf, ones I’ve been meaning to read for years, and books I have already begun reading but have not yet managed to finish due to time constraints.

Despite having to put my favourite hobby on the back-burner, the plus side is that this Jenga tower of books did provide me with the inspiration for this blog.

I’ve no illusions that the ramblings of a 22-year-old may be of any interest whatsoever to the people of the internet. Hell, there are already so many blogs, vlogs, and twitter accounts that detail the daily lives of unknowns, that another is barely making waves.

Therefore I decided that I wanted to create something that might be of use to others in some way. After finishing a book I love discussing it, what I enjoyed, what I thought the writer did particularly well, how it compares to previous titles in the series/by the same author. I often note down in a journal those I’ve particularly enjoyed, my own kind of personal book review of sorts, and I figured I may as well publish them online where they can act as a reference for the poor soul that happens to stumble across this page and might be interested in reading them.

And so this is what to expect, a book-review blog…sort of.

I won’t be reviewing all the latest releases (as you might be able to make out from the photo, some of these have been out a pretty long time now, give or take 150 years), and they won’t be super-objective critical writings, just my own personal take on the book, what I enjoyed about it, or what I didn’t so much. It also won’t be purely book reviews, there’ll most likely be a mixture of any book-related news or random facts I find interesting that I hope you will too. I’m open to any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed, although it may take me a wee while to get around to reading them!

Well, here goes.

Fingers crossed I keep it up! 

(the blog I mean, not the book pile, fingers crossed that goes down quickly to make room for more!)